NEW YORK – The U.S. government should be given access to telephone records of two New York Times reporters who used confidential sources in articles about Islamic charities, a federal prosecutor argued.
The records are necessary to determine who leaked national security information, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said Wednesday in federal district court in Manhattan.
Fitzgerald said two Islamic charities, Holy Land Foundation (search) of Texas and Global Relief Foundation (search) in Illinois, were effectively forewarned of government raids when a Times reporter called the charities for comment shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Floyd Abrams, a lawyer for Miller and Shenon, countered that handing over the records would compromise journalists' ability to uncover important stories by means of confidential sources.
"If we start down the road of permitting a federal prosecutor to obtain secret information without which journalists cannot function, the world will change for the worse, because confidential sources will no longer be available," he said.
Last year, the Times filed a lawsuit to block the Justice Department from obtaining the records. The suit says the records contained identities of dozens of confidential sources used by Miller and Shenon for an array of articles about the Sept. 11 attacks, the government's handling of continued threats from Al Qaeda (search) and the war in Iraq.
The Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its January 2001 series on Usama bin Laden (search) and Al Qaeda.